Michigan Bovine Tuberculosis Conference

What is the progress on eliminating bovine Tuberculosis from Michigan cattle herds and the wild deer population? A conference about the disease in Michigan will be held in Hillman on Saturday, March 12.

After 18 years of battling Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in Michigan, where are we? What have we learned? What is being tried currently? These are questions on the minds of many; whether they are farmers, hunters, residents or policymakers. 

A Michigan Bovine Tuberculosis Conference will be held at the Hillman Community Center on March 12, 2016 to provide answers to some of these questions and help people of northeast Michigan better understand what can be done to reduce the impact of tuberculosis. The conference is free and open to all. 

The conference will feature leading researchers, officials and educators working daily to stop bTB. The human, wildlife and cattle dimensions of the disease will be addressed. 

Since 1997, approximately 700 bTB-infected deer have been found. In Deer Management Unit (DMU) 452 (parts of Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency and Oscoda counties) after a peak of nearly 5 percent of deer found infected, the prevalence rate has trended down from approximately 2.5 percent of deer in 2000 to around 1.5 percent currently in that same area. 

However, even at those low numbers, transmission of the disease to cattle has occurred. Cattle in the four-county area are tested annually and testing of cattle in other areas of the state is done in response to infections, before movement and as surveillance. In 2015, more than 50,000 Michigan cattle were tested for bTB. 

Since 1998, a total of 64 cattle herds that have been diagnosed with the disease. At the peak, 28 cattle herds were diagnosed as infected in the period of 2000-2003. Since then, the number of infected cattle herds has averaged three to four per year. Most recently, in 2015, three herds, one dairy and two beef, were diagnosed as infected. 

The result of the disease in cattle herds is devastating. The first two of the 2015 diagnosed herds were completely killed, or depopulated as it is known. Officials are still in the process of the working through the fate of the third herd. Consumers of beef and dairy products can be assured that every effort is made to ensure the safety and quality of food. 

In 2008, a Wildlife Risk Mitigation (WRM) process was developed to help identify high-risk practices on cattle farms and work with producers to reduce risks for potential exposure. All farms that sell live cattle to market have to be wildlife risk mitigated. 

In order to go beyond even that process, Michigan State University Extension, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, USDA Wildlife Services and area dairy and beef producers, initiated a process being called enhanced wildlife risk assessment. Teams visit farms in high-risk areas to work with the producers to identify ways to further reduce risks of exposure. 

That program, as well as information on vaccination programs and diagnostic processes, deer habitat and behavior and cattle practices will be presented. The Michigan Bovine Tuberculosis Conference will be held at the Hillman Community Center, 24222 Veterans Hwy, Hillman March 12 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

The conference is sponsored by MDARD and The Ohio State University. Reservations are requested because lunch is provided for free. Reservations can be made by contacting Beth Giem, MDARD Atlanta office at giemb@michigan.gov or 989-785-5616. The agenda may be found online

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